Computers / News

Apple Officially Launches Impressive iMac Pro

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Apple has done something truly remarkable with the iMac Pro; it took workstation-quality components and managed to engineer them to fit into a svelte chassis with an incredible 5K monitor and, if the specs and design are to be believed, heat should be of no concern, even if you decide to start cutting a feature-length film using 8K raw footage from RED's latest cinema camera. Knowing that creative professionals have been desiring a refreshed pro computer that runs Apple's streamlined macOS, it seems like a no-brainer that Apple loaded up the iMac Pro with nearly every recent innovation in computing, and then optimized it to perform admirably in practically any graphics-heavy application. And now you can finally begin to order this monster machine for yourself and see what all the fuss is about.

Brainpower and processing is what makes all computers tick, and the iMac Pro will make your old computer look plain old dumb with its insane 18-core maximum, and a still impressive minimum of eight cores. The more cores, the better the performance, and Apple promises that the Xeon processors packed in here offer outstanding single-thread performance and Hyper-Threading to run multiple processes in parallel. This means that when you need to get moving, the computer is already ten steps ahead of you, resulting in practically no slowdowns and incredibly fast rendering and compiling. For intense moments, including the latest virtual reality experiences, the processors can use Turbo Boost to reach 4.5 GHz and they have caches of up to 42MB for smoother, faster operation.

Looking at the iMac Pro, the first thing, and practically only thing on the front is a 27" 5K Retina display, which now hits 500 nits, has support for the cinema-standard P3 color space, and can display more than one billion colors. This screen will immediately suck you in with stellar contrast and 10-bit rendering—I know my standard iMac does, and the Pro version is even better. Powering this display is a brand-new Radeon Pro Vega GPU that is supposedly three times faster than the graphics in any previous iMac. With 11 teraflops in single precision and 22 teraflops in half precision, something that will even make today's serious gaming consoles run and hide under a couch, graphics will simply pop and animators, graphic artists, and gamers will enjoy lightning-fast speeds as they work and play. The graphics card is available in two options, with 8GB or 16GB of memory, while on-package HBM2 (High Bandwidth Memory) provides an almost unreal bandwidth of 400GB/s.

The rear of the computer is just as slick, with a clean row of I/O options, including four Thunderbolt™ 3 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a UHS-II SDXC card slot, headphone jack, and a very nice surprise in a 10Gb Ethernet port. This is one of those pro-level features that makes a huge difference to organizations because it permits speedier transfers throughout their network, especially if you can outfit a whole suite with iMac Pros. Thunderbolt 3 also brings its own advantages with fast transfer speeds and the ability to connect two 5K displays, in addition to the brilliant built-in Retina screen, resulting in a massive canvas for viewing all sorts of content. Also, stereo speakers provide improved audio fidelity and boosted volumes, letting you rock out.

There are still a few things we haven't touched on yet, but we must crack open the aluminum case to get to them. Among the most important things under the hood is a completely redesigned thermal management system, which uses dual blowers, a heatsink, and venting to improve airflow and increase thermal capacity, basically letting all these hot components catch their breath. Moving deeper into the iMac Pro's specs, we will find storage and memory options that are, of course, blazing fast. Anywhere from 32-128GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory can be loaded-in for fast loading of apps and easy switching of applications and files. These files do have to be stored somewhere, and an SSD is the only serious choice these days, with capacities starting at 1TB and going up to 4TB for heavy loads. Solid-state media has dramatically improved throughput with these latest options and provides speeds of up to 3GB/s, allowing massive images and videos to open in a snap. And, before I forget, the iMac Pro will come with exclusive space-gray accessories for a slick, uniform look alongside the space-gray chassis.

I know, I know—many of you probably read through that, saw a bunch of confusing numbers and acronyms and are wondering exactly what this means for you. Well, let me take a deeper dive into what matters and what will make your life better as a working pro.

Photography

Perhaps it's no surprise that photographers have a lot to gain by the new iMac Pro, and that we would feature the computer's photography chops here at B&H Photo. I would say that the biggest real-world improvements come with the Retina screen. With 5K resolution (5120 x 2880, for the more pixel inclined) you will be able to work more precisely with your high-res images, something that is becoming more and more common with each major brand touting a camera with more than 40 megapixels. This display is even able to reach a 10-bit color depth for more accurate colors. Add to that an impressive graphics card and super-speedy memory and shooters who rely heavily on applications like Photoshop will see a dramatic improvement in loading times and the speed of certain functions. Those who will be most affected are likely shooters working on ultra-high-resolution images created by compiling multiple images into a single seamless panorama that is multiple times larger than a stand-alone photo, those who are batch-processing hundreds of photos at a time, and retouchers who need extremely responsive tools even as file sizes start to grow.

Bjorn Petersen, B&H Web Content Writer, says: “Every year it seems like there is a new higher-resolution camera, and my file sizes seem to always be growing. As a photographer who relies on a quick post-production workflow, the iMac Pro is something I've been keeping my eye on. I'm already a Mac user, with a Mac Pro and a MacBook Pro, and love the ecosystem I'm already working in. However, with file sizes continuously increasing and the means for sharing and presenting my work tending to go into more multimedia avenues, the need for an upgrade will always be there.

The iMac Pro impresses me for the obvious reasons, but most notably it has to be speed. While I don't currently stress out my Mac Pro when editing 50MP raw files or 350MB scans, I do notice hiccups when I begin to work on multiple images at once, or when I have a library full of these huge files and begin to batch-edit potentially hundreds of these files at once. And beyond the expected Photoshop or Capture One workflows common to most photographers, I also spend a lot of time working on book projects in InDesign, editing slideshow presentations and movies in Final Cut Pro, and even trying my hand at learning Cinema 4D for some eventual 3D projects down the road. Seeing as how photography certainly isn't limited to the still image anymore, the iMac Pro brings plenty of power to suit the growing nature of the medium I'm always working to catch up to.” 

Video

Editors stand to gain the most from upgrading to the iMac Pro, as the super speed and intense processor make many tedious tasks a lot more manageable. This would include transcodes and renders, as well as backups and imports. Eighteen cores is a lot. A whole lot. And the Intel® Xeon™ processors can use Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading to run your jobs more efficiently and in parallel. The updated I/O options will help because Thunderbolt™ 3 will make it easier to edit large raw video files from an external drive and the 10Gbps Ethernet will make networks and online editing much faster. The impressive Radeon graphics can then power through your motion graphics and 4K+ footage with ease. Additionally, long days working with video is a major strain on computers, as anyone who basically lives with their fans running full blast can attest. So, if the latest thermal management system of the iMac Pro lives up to the hype, editors will finally enjoy some peace and quiet in their workspace.

Doug Guerra, B&H Web Online Video, says: “I'm a serious believer in flexible systems with upgrade paths, but the specs of the iMac Pro are still very impressive. As someone who considers a six-core system to be an absolute minimum for today's video-editing work, the eight-core base configuration will get any editor started on the right foot. GPU acceleration is the norm for any serious workstation, so the inclusion of AMD's top-end Vega GPU should only mean good things, especially for those working in rendering and any kind of simulation. It's nice to see the return of the Ethernet port, as it does make the computer far more flexible in a studio setup with a network. Color accuracy and gamut are only going to become more important as we move toward bigger productions. I'm most interested to see how the iMac Pro's screen stacks up in color grading.” 

Graphic Designers

Now this is admittedly a broad category and, as such, designers will gain a great deal from improved specs across the board. Much like photographers, designers will love the new Retina display because its 5K resolution, 500-nit brightness, and 10-bit color depth will make graphics pop with exceptional contrast and highly accurate colors. Having lots of memory and fast solid-state storage are also a boon for illustrators because assets can be loaded up almost instantaneously and, no matter how many layers and items you throw into a design, the computer will maintain the same crisp working speeds. Saving these large documents should be better too, making it easier to keep your saves up-to-date and making sure you don't accidentally lose work.

Greg Brophy, B&H Web UX Design, says: “As a designer, we are now working with a huge array of content. Everything from 4K video, billboard-size photos and immersive VR and 3D graphic files. Quite often, design files get so big we have to save them in multiple versions due to size issues and the computer not being able to handle it. Having up to 128GB of RAM is extremely helpful in combining all this content, allowing me to seamlessly switch between all my applications instantly and being able to keep all my work in one file. With 4TB of flash storage, I can keep these files on my drive and have memory-intensive programs like Photoshop open at the same time so I can bring the assets up immediately. Often, I have to store files for clients and having four Thunderbolt 3 ports gives me the ability to add two RAID systems that will let me keep multiple backups so I don't have to worry about losing work. On top of this, being able to connect two other 5K monitors helps when balancing between multiple programs and windows needed to pull all the visual designs together.” 

Are you saving up to get an iMac Pro, or is another computer a better choice for you? Let us know below, in the Comments section! And be sure to stay tuned to B&H Explora for the latest news and reviews of Apple's high-end computers.

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13 Comments

Is the screen on this new iMac matte or glossy? Do we get a choice? Likely the only screen you get here is that lousy glossy hyper-reflective thing that photographers hate. Not for me.

Hi James, it is unfortunately only available as the glossy screen, just like the other recent iMacs.

...and you cant draw on it?  even if you copied the Surface studio it would be awesome.  

69% of Apple's revenue comes from the iPhone, which cost an arm and a leg and also I believe this phone will give Apple a BAD name soon. The remaining 39% comes from their crap stuff like computers, ipod etc. Their technology is way behind and innovation is no longer important for Apple, making money and taking advantage of people is. If Steve was alive he would certainly fire them all. BH most expensive iMac Pro cost $13,000 + for an all in one display with no touchscreen. If Microsoft builds their Surface Studio with Intel Xeon processor it will certainly be a killer for any iMac Pro out there. I predict that Microsoft will soon build their Surface Studio with powerful Intel processor and will be a HUGE success.

The most expensive iMac Pro cost over $13,000, for a computer that is not touchscreen and NONE innovation at all. You've got to be an idiot to buy this piece of crap computer. Really sorry Steve is gone. Like I said, its just a matter of time for this Cia to go down. All Steve's creation will become a museum in the future. Apple is no longer about innovation, its about making money and take advantage of people.

I'd rather wait to see when Apple might introduce an update to their current Mac Pro (the cylinder shaped workstation) because I prefer modular flexibility. An all-in-one system offers less portability. If you want to upgrde the computer or monitor seperately a few years down the road, you can't do that efficiently from an all-in-one. The iMac is powerful but I would not buy it unless I selected the full config costing around $12 thousand. The 4TB SSD storage is way overpriced compared to a standalone, let alone as part of a configuartion. The iMac pro is a great machine but I don't need this kind of editing power yet since I'm not working with video much, let alone 4k. My raw photo files and TIFFs are not straining my Early-2015 MacBook Pro using my old 30 inch Cinema display. But I may need the power later.

I am eagerly awaiting the newest Mac Pro as well, and your opinion on upgradeability seems to match that of Doug Guerra, who gave his thoughts for the article. Apple has said that they are working on something and that it would likely be modular, so I'm hopeful we will see something sooner rather than later.

The Wikipedia article titled 'Mac Pro' says: "In April 2017, Apple confirmed that a new redesigned Mac Pro will be released in 2018 to replace the 2nd generation Mac Pro."

Not just modular, it could be even more powerful that this iMac Pro and probably will be.

Most definitely will be more powerful (in some configurations). But I hope that since it doesn't have a built-in monitor that the price won't be as high. But I'm sure that it will probably be priced in the same ballpark if not higher.

From what I've read these will be suited exceptionally well for those who use Apple software, i.e. FCPX, so even though there is a lot under the hood happening if you're using other creative software, you might not benefit as much. 

Hi Tim,

Exactly. If you are a current Apple power user, especially if you use a Mac-exclusive software like FCP, the iMac Pro is for you. Photographers using Photoshop and not doing intense editing likely don't need all the advantages of the Pro vs the standard iMac (I use a 2017 27" iMac myself for photo editing and occasional 4K video editing without any issue), but video editors working with huge raw files and very involved edits and color grades every day will surely get a huge boost from the added cores and memory speed.

Beautiful. Lovely.  Maybe a necessity for creative professionals.  But fully loaded 18 core-Upgraded graphics-128Gb Mem-4TB  w/Apple Care=> ~$13,500.  I'm a Mac guy, but a similarly equipped high end Razer aor custom built workstation would be floating around $10K.  That a fairly substantial diff in cost.   

Hi Charles, Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. There are always going to be price differences between a Mac and a custom workstation from somewhere else, and that decision is going to be up to the user. A lot of creatives I know now rely on custom Windows machines for the cost savings and upgradability, but I know a lot of others (myself included) who appreciate the Apple ecosystem and wouldn't think of going back to Windows. Also, while admittedly many Mac computers have had significant premiums, I don't feel that the difference is that dramatic with the iMac Pro at the moment, especially when you consider the integrated 5K display and all-in-one-design. 

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